Land Trust Board of Trustees
Donna Murphy — Board Chair
Donna moved to Santa Cruz in 2006 to become Vice Chancellor of University Relations at UC Santa Cruz, capping a professional career in which she held senior leadership positions at three major research universities and two international organizations. In Santa Cruz, she has served on the United Way Board, including as Campaign Chair and Board President. She also served on the Community Board for Palo Alto Medical Foundation until 2015, volunteers for Wings, and is on the Advisory Committee for Digital Nest in Watsonville. Now retired, she provides strategy consulting to several local and regional non-profit organizations and is active in regional economic, environmental, housing and transportation issues.
Tom Burns — Board Vice Chair
Tom is a 7th generation Monterey Bay resident. He has worked in land use in Santa Cruz County for his entire career, leaving his last position with the County (Planning Director) in 2010. Since that time, he has been working part-time as a consultant to local governments and non-profits on a wide range of projects. In addition to Land Trust activities, Tom serves on the AgriCulture Board, Mid-Peninsula- The Farm Inc. Board (affordable housing management), Affordable Housing NOW! Steering Committee, and others. He spends considerable time in the outdoors – biking, hiking, backpacking and gardening.
Thomas Jacob — Secretary
Thom is an attorney with Thoits Law, a firm with offices in Santa Cruz and Los Altos. He specializes in real estate law, with a practice focused on helping clients in the acquisition, sale, leasing, and financing of real property. As a current Board member and past President of Palo Alto Housing, Thom has been involved with affordable housing for many years. He previously served as a Board member of Mid-Peninsula Housing Corporation and the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, and has been actively involved with the Peninsula Open Space Trust, Sempervirens Fund and Brown University alumni affairs. Thom has an undergraduate degree from Brown University, a law degree from UC Hastings, and a masters from the Kennedy School at Harvard. Thom and his wife Audrey live in Santa Cruz, and have two grown boys.
Larry Perlin — Treasurer
Larry is a Registered Civil Engineer who is recently retired after a nearly 30 year career in California local government. He most recently worked for the City of Palo Alto as Assistant Director of Public Works and prior to that as Chief Building Official. Additionally, he has served as Director of Public Works/City Engineer for the Cities of Capitola, Saratoga and the Town of Los Gatos, and City Manager for the City of Saratoga. He also spent six years in the private sector as a Principal/Division Manager with Nichols Consulting Engineers, Chtd., a civil engineering and environmental services consulting firm with offices in California and Nevada. Larry has lived in the mid-County area of Santa Cruz since 1982. He is a former Planning Commissioner for Santa Cruz County representing the 1st Supervisorial District and has held elective office since 2004 as a member of the Live Oak School District Governing Board. He was first appointed to the Land Trust Board in 2001 and has served continuously since.
Mary joined the Land Trust Board in 2016.
Ana Espinoza serves as the director for the City of Watsonville Parks and Community Services Department. In this role, she oversees the maintenance of 26 parks, public grounds and facilities, two computer centers, and a variety neighborhood development and engagement programs and family support services. In addition, she has over 33 years of experience working in and providing support to nonprofits in Santa Cruz County. Early in her career, she served as an Administrative Analyst for the Meals on Wheels program and five senior dining centers. Since then, she has served as Executive Director of Familia Center, Inc., co-chair of the Latino Strategic Planning Collaborative, member of the Latino Affairs Commission, and the United Way Community Assessment Project, among others. Through her work with the City of Watsonville, in local nonprofits, and as a mother of two daughters, she has learned the value of promoting the well-being of children and their families, while increasing their awareness of the environment they live in.
Bill graduated from UCSB with a BA in Biological Sciences, went on to get his MA in Molecular Biology, and continued in the same department as a research associate in the field of bacterial genetics. In 1980, he began another career in floriculture which eventually led to a small nursery business, then specialty gardening, and finally to landscape design from which he is semi-retired. Along the way he has been a board member of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, led birdwatching groups, studied the effects of feral burros in Death Valley, hiked the roadless areas of Idaho for possible inclusion in the wilderness system, and fenced portions of Santa Cruz Island to control feral sheep overgrazing. He resides in the Soquel hills.
John is an environmental scientist and the owner of John Gilchrist & Associates, which emphasizes watershed management, biology, wetland restoration and erosion control. Previously a principal with Habitat Restoration Group and the former Chief Environmental Planner for Santa Cruz County, John is also co-author of a college text, Geologic Hazards, Resources & Environmental Planning.
Rogelio Ponce, Jr.
Born and raised in Watsonville, Rogelio Ponce Jr., currently manages his family owned business, Sun Valley Berries, and personal business Cal-Pacific Berries. Rogelio graduated from San Jose State University in 2001 with a B.S. in Business Administration. Aside from managing his family and personal business, Rogelio enjoys being active in the community. He has previously served as a board member for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and chair for the Pajaro Valley Outreach Committee for CASA, and took part in the Blue Ribbon Committee for the City of Watsonville, retirement action committee. Rogelio currently serves on the regional Driscoll philanthropy committee and on the Reiter Affiliated Companies Philanthropy Board. In his free time, Rogelio enjoys challenging himself in competitive cycling and triathlons. Rogelio also enjoys spending time with his wife, June Padilla Ponce and teaching their son, Iker Ivan Ponce, how to play baseball.
Kathy joined the Land Trust Board in 2018.
Marieke moved from The Netherlands to the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1989 with her new husband, which was the beginning of her love for redwoods and the Santa Cruz coast. Due to a heavy work schedule on her husband’s part, she and her family moved down to the valley in 2006. Marieke graduated from UCSC with a degree in French/Spanish and a minor in linguistics. She has been active in her family’s philanthropic activities, so far mainly in the fields of education and healthcare, both in the US and abroad.
Melody is a website designer and has had her own firm since 1996. She is the author of Getting On Top, a self-help book on career development and is a former business columnist for Shape magazine. Prior to moving to Santa Cruz in 1981, she was a magazine editor in Los Angeles for several national publications. Her other volunteer work is as a board member for Volunteer Centers of Santa Cruz County, and she is a past board president of the both the Land Trust and Volunteer Centers.
Joyce has a consulting practice focused on helping startups and small businesses accelerate and achieve sustainable growth. Previously she held executive positions at PredPol, a Santa Cruz tech startup, and Plantronics. Joyce has worked and lived in Santa Cruz, which she considers her ‘home and playground’, for over 30 years. Joyce received an MBA from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College and a bachelors degree from UCLA.
Robert Stephens is the owner of Elkhorn Native Plant Nursery in Moss Landing, CA. He also has a long history of cattle ranching in central California. In the past, he was owner/partner of Ridgeline Systems, a provider of hard disk drive testing equipment and software, and served as Director of Technical Support for Victor Technologies in Scotts Valley, CA. Robert is a past board member of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation where he played a leadership role in the design and implementation of the Foundation’s $175 million Conserving California Landscapes Initiative, designed to protect natural habitats on the Central Coast, Central Valley and Sierras. Robert was also founding chairman of California Audubon, whose goal is to advance environmental education and habitat protection throughout California. His prior community activities have included service as a founding board member of the Greater Santa Cruz County Community Foundation, president of the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum Association, Co-Chair of Fundraising for the Long Marine Lab Visitor Center, and board membership on the Santa Cruz Private Industry Council. In 1999 he was named Man of the Year by the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce. Robert was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico and received bachelors degrees in Psychology and Computer Science from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is an avid outdoorsman with a passion for fly fishing, horseback riding, biking and natural history.